Success stories

Remote education – balancing productivity and security

Students across the world have been met with a very atypical environment this educational year. They’re trading desks in classrooms for virtual learning spaces, and teachers have so far been faced with many challenges associated with this kind of learning.

Whilst nothing will replace in-person teaching, education has been trending towards remote learning for some time due to the benefits it can offer to some. Modern tools have allowed students to study in their own homes without long commute times and have helped schools to cut down on costs.

One of the major shakeups to the education industry in the past five years has been the entry of Microsoft. No longer content to offer its generic Microsoft 365 services, the IT giant now offers solutions specifically tailored to students and teachers. None of these tools so far have made more waves than Microsoft Teams — a collaboration hub for communication and file sharing that is perfectly suited to remote learning.

Unrivalled benefits for remote learning

With Microsoft Teams, students can discuss and collaborate with their peers in a unified manner regardless of the device they are using. Real-time, collaborative document editing allows multiple students to work on the same file at once and teachers to be able to check and edit work without physical exchange of workbooks. In-built voice, video, and chat enables effective communication between students and teachers and gives students the chance to stay social with their peers. Another invaluable integration comes in the form of Whiteboard, which brings a classroom-like mind mapping experience.

Solutions like Teams also helps students to understand and be heard; an important benefit when learning remotely. When a teacher is presenting, they can raise their hand to call attention, while an integrated immersive reader helps those with eyesight and focus issues stay invested in text chat. Once a class is over, teachers can utilise Teams to set and track assignments. As a partial replacement for on-site intuition, they can also check the insights dashboard, which gives detailed student engagement data.

Cost reduction and digital transformation

Remote education can also significantly reduce costs and suit budget-restricted institutions and students. Both pupils and schools can benefit from lowered textbook, transportation, and rental costs. E-signature tools like DocuSign can also save money, reducing the amount of physical paperwork whilst speeding up the process of signing and reviewing documents.

Schools that don’t want to go fully digital can adopt a hybrid model; students can be physically on campus part-time and still benefit from tools like Teams and OneDrive to sync documents and feedback to their home PC. This is proving invaluable for students that need to self-isolate because of potential contact with Covid-19 cases.

Crucially, DocuSign and Microsoft Office for Education provide these features without compromising security. It’s no secret that educational organisations are a target for cyber-criminals. A late 2019 government report found that 41% of primary schools and 76% of secondary schools had identified a breach in the past 12 months. For further and higher education, that figure is 80%.

Clearly, educational institutions are an enticing target for criminals. They hold large amounts of profitable data and often aren’t as security aware as commercial businesses. As a result, it’s vital that organisations take advantage of the latest tools to protect students, data and research.

Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory Connect lets institutions with flexible education methods extend their on-premises identity to secure cloud access at home. It’s Information Protection and Cloud App Security solutions protect student data regardless of location, while the Mobility and Security features provide threat analysis tools to automatically spot attacks via behavioural analytics.

That said, government research shows that most breaches in education come not through viruses or malware but from phishing emails. To battle phishing attacks, a solution like Mimecast Email Security can be implemented. Stopping the majority of phishing and spam emails before they reach the inbox reduces the impact of poor cyber-education.

Ransomware also poses a big threat to the education industry. Though successful attacks are lower than other methods, they’re incredibly damaging when they succeed, often wiping out masses of valuable data. Educational institutions should ensure their security solution includes regular backups of on-premises, cloud, and mobile data, mitigating the risk of long downtime and devastating losses.

Fortinet and Azure integration

Many educational institutions use Fortinet solutions on-premise, but did you know that Fortinet delivers an Enterprise-class solution for Microsoft Azure users to protect application workloads beyond standard Azure security services? Integrated cyber security solutions provide protection whether virtual, in the cloud or on-premises.

As a Fortinet Expert Partner and Microsoft Gold Partner, Cloud Business has helped many schools and HE institutions migrate to the Microsoft cloud while protecting their networks, assets and people from cyber attack.

The world has changed a lot over the past year, but so has the way educational institutions utilise technology. Remote working tools are making learning more accessible and inexpensive than ever, while adoption of recent security innovations helps students and teachers stay secure even when remote. If you’d like to chat about building a remote learning model that’s truly secure, we can help.

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Is this the year of the paperless office?

Digital technology has long been hyped as the route to a paperless office.

In the last decade or so, most businesses have dramatically reduced their paper consumption. The rows of filing cabinets containing every piece of correspondence and documentation are long gone. The contents of those files have been scanned and digitalised, stored on a secure server to be called up in an instance when required. The post bag is a shadow of its former self, and the photocopier machine is gathering dust.

But many of us are still reliant on the office printer and the paperless office is not yet a reality. Regardless of email footers asking whether “you really need to print this email” and company policies to reduce paper consumption, most workplaces still have a long way to go before they can claim to be a paperless office.

However, we think that’s changing and 2020 could be the year we see companies making significant progress towards a paperless workplace. Why now? Read on:

3 key drivers to a paperless office in 2020

  1. Climate change is on the board’s agenda

Environmental concern is at its highest level since YouGov started tracking public opinion on this topic amongst a decade ago. As well as pressure on the Government to take action, activists are also calling on organisations and businesses to improve environmental sustainability. Material consumption is one of the targets and that’s driving interest in products like DocuSign as one way of reducing paper usage.

The need for signatures on documents has long been a barrier to the paperless office. Many offices resort to printing the document, signing it, and then scanning it to create a digital copy. Questions about the validity of an electronic signature have also prevented some organisations from adopting these paperless solutions.

However, products like DocuSign have overcome these challenges. First and foremost, the process of signing a document is completely digital – no paper is involved. Secondly, multiple levels of authentication ensure the right person signs the document. And thirdly, these contracts are legally binding and accepted for most global business transactions. DocuSign also has advanced signature options that can further reduce your risk for regulated or high-value transactions by complying with local or industry eSignature standards.

Download our e-book to learn more about how DocuSign can create a compliant and truly paperless process.

  1. Millennials don’t need paper printouts

The younger workforce – Millennials and Generation Z – has grown up with technology and is used to viewing information on a screen. While older members of staff may want to print a document, from habit or because they find paper copies easier to read, this is not a problem for younger employees.

Experts predict that by 2020, millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%. That’s over half the workforce, all digitally savvy and used to reading, annotating and reviewing information on a computer, tablet or mobile.

I think their working practices will increasingly influence older generations too. For example, when attending a meeting they’re more likely to come armed with just their device to view a presentation or look through a report. With exposure, those employees who would normally requested a printout will become more accustomed to viewing a digital version, and will start to see the benefits too.

  1. 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020

Whether on public or private cloud platforms, or using hybrid models, it’s predicted that 83% of enterprise workloads will be running in the cloud by 2020.

Why’s this significant? Cloud collaboration solutions negate the need for paper as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, notes and messages can be shared digitally in real-time. There are numerous benefits including:

  • Reducing human error – paper documents can be misfiled resulting in hours spent looking for them. Whereas documents stored in the cloud can be searched for in seconds.
  • Greater transparency – sharing documents using solutions such as Office 365 increases collaboration and transparency. Unique documents don’t need to be physically delivered to stakeholders one at a time (and there’s no need to print multiple copies) everyone can view the most up-to-date version at any time.
  • Better security – cloud solutions give organisations better control over who has access to documents and data, compared to documents sitting in a filing cabinet. Whether it’s to protect against insider or external threats, rules and security defences are better protection than a filing cabinet key.
  • Fast communications – email has been a key driver in reducing paper consumption in business – provided that people don’t print them out… Other digital solutions are also removing the need for paper communications. Tools like Microsoft Teams, Yammer and SharePoint make it really easy and convenient to communicate with colleagues without needing to physically deliver a note.

These cloud benefits not only reduce your need for paper but also drive efficiencies in your organisation, increase productivity and collaboration, and reducing costs. Not just the cost of printer paper, post it notes and message pads either! It’s also a more affordable and flexible way of managing your IT.

So will your office be paperless by the end of 2020? The technology is certainly there to achieve this goal. And the appetite is also there amongst many organisations and their employees to become environmentally sustainable. Get in touch if you would like to discuss how this could be achieved in your office.

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DocuSign is now part of our Digital Productivity Portfolio

Cloud Business is pleased to announce the addition of DocuSign – the global market leader in e-signature solutions to our cloud services portfolio.

As digital workplace experts, we specialise in helping our clients harness digital productivity within their working environments. DocuSign’s Digital Transaction Management and eSignature services are proven to play a pivotal role in increasing productivity within the Digital Workplace, especially in an Office 365 user environment.

Explore how DocuSign increases digital productivity

DocuSign is proven to deliver cost savings to an organisation: According to DocuSign, workplaces on average will save $36 per document processed electronically rather than a traditional paper based format. This is because by implementing electronic signatures, and contract processing and retention, it enables companies to reduce printing, paper, communication, legal, and storage costs. Particularly for organisations with multiple sites and those who need to retain and refer. So a company signing 100+ documents a month will save $3600 per month or an annual saving of $43000+!

DocuSign significantly helps reduce your companys carbon footprint. The materials we use to buy, sell and build have an extraordinary effect on the environment, as well as the productivity and bottom line of your business. That’s why the smartest option is to, whenever possible and if not entirely, skip the use of paper. DocuSign has recently announced reducing consumption of approximately 837 tons of paper or nearly 14,230 trees. No longer will you need to waste expenses to print and send long winded proposals and wait a week for them to be signed and then sent back. DocuSign cuts this process in half, saving you money, time and the environment.

DocuSign will improve team collaboration through its out-of-box integration with Office 365 – At Cloud Business, we are strong believers that technology should bring teams together and increase employee engagement. DocuSign’s out-of-the-box integration with Microsoft Office 365 means that users benefit from a seamless, end-to-end e-signature solution integrated into their most familiar and widely-used applications.

For example, users can create and send a document for approval and signature in Word; send, receive, and sign attachments securely from within Outlook; sign, request a signature on, and track the status of documents in a SharePoint library; and save completed documents. This then will improve productivity and collaboration within departments including sales, finance, HR, IT, legal, support, marketing, and procurement.

Want to find out more about how to drive productivity with DocuSign for Office 365?Download our e-book to learn more about DocuSign’s partnership with Microsoft Office 365 and the seamless end-to-end users benefits. 

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